The Greatest Electronics Tip I Know -- the Spudger

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Introduction: The Greatest Electronics Tip I Know -- the Spudger

About: I was pfred1 but moved, changed my email address, and lost my password. I suppose worse things could happen.

I've tried to write this article a dozen times already and it always comes out sounding ridiculous. I mean when I say a spudger is basically a sharpened stick but it is an essential high tech electronics tool, there I just said it. Is anyone still with me? Or are you all off laughing? But I'm serious a spudger is a professional all around top 10 kind of a tool. If you only have 10 tools for doing electronics make sure a spudger is one of them. These things are on the short list of equipment you should have.

But how many folks are really familiar with spudgers? I know before I was introduced to one I wasn't. I had a lot more than 10 tools for doing electronics by that time too. So I'd like to just expose anyone here to the idea of spudgers if they don't already know about them.

Get one, use one, imagine all the things you can do with a spudger. This is definitely one of the tools that should be on your workbench, or in your tool bag. Oh, and it isn't out of the realm of reason at all for you to just make a spudger. These things are essentially just sharpened sticks after all. Try to pick a dense, hard, dry, relatively resin free wood if you decide to make your own. If yours chars, or gets gummed up with resin sanding it or whittling on it are accepted practices. As that is often done even with the commercial instruments, in order to fit them to specific jobs, or just shape them back up again, after some use. Yes, you can carve on your sharpened stick, it's OK!

(cue the apes raucously grunting)

So release your inner cave man when doing high tech electronics and embrace the spudger in your projects. Oh, and rate, and vote for me in the electronics tips & tricks contest because I could really use a clean tee shirt over here. Thanks!

P.S. Several people asked what you do with a spudger in the comments section (which I am not being notified of via email lately) I rewrote this article so many times I overlooked putting it into this version. The primary task spudgers are put to with electronics is to hold, position, and pry at components while soldering, because your fingers burn like candles when subjected to high heats. Plus you probably shouldn't grind, abrade, sand, or whittle your fingers to quite as thin a cross section as spudgers are.

You may see in my lead photo for this article I've several soldering aid kits in my tool pallet along with my spudgers. Spudgers are better. Though those soldering aid kit tools have their uses too. Just not for soldering. Why? Spudgers grip components better, they don't suck heat out of the joint, they're more comfortable to use too. Professionals use wooden spudgers, you should too. Your great 1,500 generations ago grandparents were right all along, sharpened sticks are where it's at!

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35 Discussions

Although an absolutely essential item on any self-respecting electronic technician's workbench, (all agreed so far), I must take issue with your assertion that the spudger is "high-tech". It is the absolute opposite of high-tech. I mean you admit yourself that it is one step up from a stick, being a fashioned stick. I think you got a bit carried away with your own enthusiasm but this tool is most definitely, wait for it...

...LOW TECH !!!

There, I said it.

Please, pfred2. Please don't take offence. Non intended. Great piece.

Bodragon. xxx

1 reply

Well the nice gray ones are special sticks. I think they're orange wood? I don't even know where to buy them today. I just know I have two. A fatter one, and a skinnier one.

We used them (didn't call them spudgers though) in the Marine Corps to tune resonant tank circuits <a href='http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LC_circuit'>LC circuit</a> for IF stages. Metal tweakers would change the frequency when it got close to the circuit, (these were tube radios with sheet metal variable capacitors) and the plastic ones had too much play when adjusting. So a wooden cotton swap was trimmed to fit, and when it started to get loose, it would re-trimmed, a perfect adjustment tool.

As a bit of trivia these radios were used as back-ups in the UH-1N (huey) helicopters well into the 1990's (not sure what they use now) as they were supposedly immune to EMP blasts.

3 replies

The technical term for a wooden stick is technical. I know it took me a while to look up. I don't know anything about radio electronics. I do know that all electronics are fairly sensitive to electromagnetic radiation though. I also know that military devices are built to withstand severe environmental hazards. You never know when the stuff has to survive a war.

I'm not so sure what use a working radio will be good for after an EMP event. Nothing else is going to work then. The day will come someday when we may all find out.

50 years ago ( 1964 to be exact ) we used a tool supplied by Western Electric labeled as a KS6320-L1 or to us in the local telephone company, an orange stick, because of the wood it was made of. But we also called it a "SPUDGER" even back then and it was used to push, pry, separate, probe, electrical wiring and terminals beings it was electrically non conductive. Today orange wood is still used for makeing Manicuring Cuticle Pushers, and from pictures seen on eBay could easily be equally used as a present day "Spudgers".

While it is true that spudgers made out of the right kind of wood are the nicest I have successfully used other wood species. I hope your tip comes in handy for some reading these comments. Wooden spudgers are still commercially available today, although I imagine a lot of folks would prefer to avoid the hassle of sourcing them.

I think I had a pretty common experience when I was a kid growing up in the basement with my dad: I was his sprudger. Holding little parts and breathing lead fumes from his soldering iron. Sound familiar? To this day both lead fumes and that sweet smell of fiberglass resin take me back. I'll carve one in his and your honor for my own soldering kit. Thanks for giving me a new name and title.

I'm a popsicle fan too.

Never knew what to call them though... Thanks for that (is that a certified term?:).

Here's a modification I use when I need to clamp something down sans fingers. It works well with my well-modified Exacto clip thingi.

Screen shot 2012-07-14 at 7.58.52 AM.jpgSpudger.jpg
1 reply

Google spudger they'll turn up. Though initially I didn't know what their name was, so it took me a while to figure it out. What we called them in the shop I learned about them isn't even close. That term actually lead me in a very disturbing direction which makes me wonder who was doing what back then ... and why I wasn't in on the joke.

But this is an all ages site so enough about that!

It is a soldering aid, a part former, and projectile device, it slices, it dices, it can even make Julianne fries! Aardvarks have been witnessed using them in the wild to extract ants from hills, with a pair you have chop sticks. The possibilities are endless! When you are cold you can pile them up and set them on fire. It is difficult to do delicate electronic work when you are shivering you know?

It is used in the act of spudging; to be spudged. As in:

Smith: "I say, Jones, that's a mighty fine spudger you have there. Mind if I have a go with it?"

(Sounds of power tools, breaking glass, and blood-curdling screams)

Jones: "How was that?"

Smith: "My word; terrific! I have never been so thoroughly spudged in my life!"

Maybe you and the rest of the ppl can consider Google. That's what I normally do when there is something I do not understand. In this case I also used Google and found the answer.

Arnefl..... hummm... this site is called instructables... People come here to be instructed on somthing. If you have to go back to Google to find out what the instructor is talking about here, it's a pretty poor show.

I came here about the greatest electronics tip and get shown pieces of plastic and timber and nothing is explained except they are great for spudging. Ok, tell us why they are great compared to... a your finger? a screwdriver? a pan galactic gargle-blaster?

If you are going to talk about how great this is as a tool, as a 3 line paragraph of it's terrific uses really too much to ask for?

Well next time you are soldering a resistor use your finger to push it down. Then type to me what that was like. Oh, and try the screwdriver too, but have a spare resistor on hand when you do. Because sometimes metal blades can be a bit harsh on delicate electronic components.

It's for poking and moving around components, prying bits, or stabbing errant robots to death.